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Reason, Morality, and LawThe Philosophy of John Finnis$
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John Keown and Robert P. George

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199675500

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199675500.001.0001

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The Irony of Law

The Irony of Law

Chapter:
(p.327) 20 The Irony of Law
Source:
Reason, Morality, and Law
Author(s):

Timothy Endicott

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199675500.003.0021

John Finnis says that central cases of the concepts of social theory fully instantiate values that are instantiated in more-or-less watered-down ways in peripheral cases. This chapter argues that the central case of a concept essential to social theory may excel in some specific good or in some specific ill, or in neither, or in both. As for law, the central cases of a legal system, or of a law, do indeed involve goods that Finnis ascribes to them; the central cases also involve certain ills. That is the irony of law. It secures essential goods for a community, and also (and, in fact, by the same token) it incurs certain ills that are necessarily involved in its specific techniques for securing those goods. The chapter concludes by pointing out a resulting tension over a legal system's regulation of the validity of its own legal norms.

Keywords:   central cases, natural law theory, evil, legal validity, jurisprudence

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